Donald Trump is fundraising gold — if you’re on his bad side. We’ve already seen activists pour money into advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, in the latter case funding a massive expansion of their work.
Via Politico, we can now see evidence of a similar dynamic at play for high-profile Democratic candidates. Drawing on donation data from ActBlue, a fundraising platform used by many Democrats and Left-leaning organizations, reporters Gabriel Debenedetti and Scott Bland find that small donors are boosting senators up for reelection in 2018 as well:
In February alone — and just online — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a top GOP target in 2018, brought in over $212,000 in donations of under $200 through ActBlue. That’s over four times as much as she raised in small donations across all platforms — online or through more traditional fundraising means — in the first quarter of 2011, the comparable period in her last reelection campaign.
The small-donor angle is key:
Small donors, however, have stepped into the void, enabling many Democrats to bust through their online goals in recent weeks — particularly when the Trump administration has high-profile missteps or moments that have captured the country’s attention.
Democrats minted money online in February — which saw the beginning of the fight over Trump’s travel ban and individual moments such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s stand against now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when she was silenced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign demonstrated, individual rallying moments can create short-term online fundraising bonanzas.
As we have been writing at Epolitics.com for almost a decade, small donors kick ass for campaigns. Unlike big-money contributors who can hit their per-campaign giving limit with one check, people who give small amounts tend to do so repeatedly. They’re a long-term resource for campaigns that know how to nurture their enthusiasm and that can offer them compelling reasons to whip out their credit cards again and again.
For proof of grassroots donors’ importance, just look to recent history: small donors gave Obama an edge over both Hillary Clinton and John McCain that I’d argue was decisive in 2008, and they very nearly made Bernie Sanders the Democratic nominee last year.
Meanwhile, Republicans are also pulling down the big bucks, but the evidence we have so far suggests that their 2017 giving is driven by wealthier contributors. I doubt there were many $25 donors at that $30 million NRCC fundraiser Trump headlined a few days back, for example. Of course, we may find out differently in April, when we’ll have access to first-quarter FEC data from campaigns and the party committees. On the latter front, Republican groups like the RNC and NRSC have outpaced their Democratic counterparts to date, but let’s see what happens as the Dems reorganize and join the Resistance. For now, it looks as though their candidates themselves are picking up the slack, and building durable lists in the process. 2018’s going to be fun.